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Posted on August 26th 2015 by admin-movingin

Essential Section 21 update for letting agents: Important changes just weeks away

Important changes affecting letting agents and landlords are just weeks away, courtesy of The Deregulation Act.

The main changes are to the rules on serving a notice to quit under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, commonly known as a Section 21 Notice.

The changes come into force on October 1 and apply to tenancies entered into on or after that date.

The following guidance has been written by Michelle Cox, a lawyer at Greenwoods Solicitors.

“The main changes to be aware of are:

  • It will no longer be possible to serve a Section 21 Notice until the tenant has lived in the property for a minimum of four months. This is designed to stop landlords serving a Section 21 Notice as soon as a tenant moves in. As before, the notice can’t expire in any event before the end of any fixed term.
  • A Section 21 Notice will only be valid for six months from the date it was given. This means that if the tenant doesn’t leave, possession proceedings must be commenced within six months of the service of the Section 21 Notice. Different rules apply where the notice period set out in the tenancy agreement is more than two months.
  • A Section 21 Notice will no longer be invalid if the date of possession given on it is not the last day of a tenancy period. This has traditionally been one of the main reasons that a Section 21 Notice fails. As long as a full two months’ notice is given, then unless another unconnected error is made, the Section 21 Notice will be valid.
  • Landlords will be unable to serve a Section 21 Notice in circumstances where it is in breach of its legal obligations to a tenant. This includes obligations as to the condition of the property, the health and safety of the occupants and failure to provide an Energy Performance Certificate or a valid gas certificate for the property.
  • When a Section 21 Notice is served, all rent that has been paid for any period where the tenant ceases to live in the property must be repaid to the tenant. This has implications where a tenant who has paid their rent decides to leave when they receive the Section 21 Notice rather than when the notice expires. Where a tenant pays a full month’s rent but then is required by the Section 21 Notice to vacate or voluntarily vacates mid-way through the month, the tenant is entitled to be reimbursed the overpayment of rent for that period.
  • One change that is already in force relates to the protection of deposits. All deposits ever taken which are still being held must now be protected. Once complete the deposit protection certificate and all prescribed information must be served on the tenant. If any deposit has not been protected or returned to the tenant a Section 21 Notice cannot be served.”